Halos and Wings: Maybe?

NOTE-this December series is a narrative from scripture and from fiction. It’s the story of Christmas as told by those who were closest to the event. Please read accordingly, thanks.

The Voices of Christmas

Part Two

    There isn’t a memory of my not being here. As far as I can determine I have always been in the presence of God. To comprehend his presence requires a language that none of you speak, it’s angelic and beyond your grasp. For you were made just a little lower. Words like glory, splendor, majesty and radiance speak of his presence, but again, they are limited in scope.

I have found that many believe that we angels look something like this: 

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Little angels to be sure, but not exactly what we look like; close, really very close, but no and especially not the big, goofy one in the back.

    It’s believed that angels have bright, shiny halo’s and wings of fluffy white feathers, it’s a common belief. In truth, we can appear in almost any form.

THE LORD

The Lord is our boss and we exist awaiting his will. Most of our work is giving messages to mortals. Sometimes we look divine and sometimes not.

AND ME?

My name is Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God. I am sent to speak to those the Lord want’s spoken to. I deliver his messages and my favorites are the messages of good news.

For example, one day I was standing with the heavenly host, just plumping and fluffing my wings, when the Lord spoke my name.

(we don’t really count time in days, it’s just for your benefit) 

“Gabriel” the voice of God said.

“Yes, Lord, how may I serve you”?

“I need you to give some news to a couple of people. Are you ready”?

“Yes, Lord, always,” I said. “What is your command”?

“I need you to speak to Zechariah the priest, you will find him serving in the temple. Tell him that his wife is going to have a baby, that they will name him John, and that he will be the messenger for my anointed one”.

This was momentous, it was huge, for we the heavenly host have known for thousands of years that a day would come when our Lord would give salvation to the world. John’s coming was the first active step towards the Messiah’s birth. And I have been chosen to deliver the message. Wow, I wouldn’t want to be around Michael tonight, I’m sure he thought he would get this one.

And then, I had no more than returned when he sent me back. He sent me to a young Jewish girl named Mary.

He said, “Tell her that she will be with child from the power of the Holy Spirit and that she is to name him Yeshua, meaning God Saves! That he will be called the Son of the Most High and will inherit the throne of David.”

Wow, talk about an important mission with an essential message. Yeshua, born to a virgin and destined to die for Yahweh’s creation. First it was Zechariah, Elizabeth and John, and now Yeshua announces the time of Emanuel, for God to be with his people!

GOD’S SON

I have served the Son of God for millenniums and now the Lord is sending his Anointed. Soon he will leave to go and do what was chosen before time, to provide salvation for the world.

THE SACRED

These assignments were crafted from the sacred and divine. There has been nothing else as important.

I tell you that I am Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God. I give witness that his grace and mercy are coming to your land. A savior will be born to you and it will be good news for all the people.

It will be good news of the most merry kind.

Blessed be the name of the Lord.

 

A Beautiful Day For a Wedding

Sunday afternoon I was in College Station to perform a wedding. The happy couple are members of my church and have planned long and prepared well. It was a joy and an honor to officiate their wedding as a wedding is about getting married.

Yesterday they had their wedding, today they are married.

The word “wedding” comes from the Old English “weddian” meaning, “a pledge.” A wedding is the joining of two people who have pledged to each other.

A wedding gives birth to a marriage. 

Weddings are rich in tradition and range from the fabulously expensive big white wedding to two people standing in my office. Typically, weddings contain the following elements:

  • Someone to perform the ceremony
  • A wedding license
  • Vows or words of promise
  • Rings
  • A verbal response of “I do”
  • The pronouncement of “husband and wife”
  • A kiss of some kind

I perform on average six weddings a year. Some are held in churches while others are event/destination weddings. Some are members of my church and some are from the community. Half a dozen a year doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve been doing them for forty years.

Some observations from having officiated 240 weddings:

  • Grooms are typically nervous, perspire and wonder why all the expense and fuss.
  • It’s a priceless look on a groom’s face when he sees his bride walking up the aisle.
  • I’ve never seen a bride walk the aisle who wasn’t smiling radiantly.
  • Someone cries: the bride, groom, parent, grandparent, or all of them.
  • No matter what they say, wedding pictures never take “just a few minutes.”
  • Receptions are about: relief, joy, tears, celebration, pride, and a little sadness too.

Weddings are rich in tradition and laced with sacred customs.

KrisandraEvans.com | Atlanta Wedding Photographer | Yonah Mountain Vineyard
Not us, or our wedding place, but close, really very close.

I’ve performed weddings in huge churches, tiny churches, standing in two feet of snow, standing on the edge of mountain cliffs, next to rivers, in homes and wedding chapels, in the parlors of Bed and Breakfasts, in my office and all kinds of places.

The two most memorable weddings?

My own and my daughters.

 

 

 

 

The mail comes about the same time each day, it’s rarely early and occasionally late, but about the same time. Getting the mail was once a big deal but now, not so much.

It’s not unusual for us to forget to check the mail and when we do to discover its packed.

Full-Mailbox

USED TO BE

The mail used to be about letters from loved ones and good friends. It’s how people stayed in touch, but not anymore. In this era the cell phone has become our connection point. It makes calls, can email and text and facilitates all kinds of social media.

The Mail Box is less about personal correspondence and more about:

  • unwanted catalogues selling every kind of thing
  • bills
  • flyers and shopping guides
  • promotions, political stuff and propaganda

The mail box has become a wasteland of useless junk destined for the local land fill. How many trees in my lifetime have been sacrificed to produce the tons of junk-mail I didn’t request or want to receive?

TERTIUS?

A man named Tertius once wrote a letter that needed to be delivered. It was an important letter, the kind that made it into the cannon of scripture, and we know it as the book of Romans. In those days such letters were delivered by a brave and trusted messenger for the delivery was fraught with peril.

I know, Tertius didn’t write Romans, it was authored by the Apostle Paul. Actually, Paul verbalized the letter and Tertius wrote it down. In fact, he said so in Romans 16:22

“I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet you in the Lord.”

PAUL’S DELIVERY PERSON

But how did Paul get his important letter to the church in Rome? The letter probably  originated in Corinth, a trip of nearly 1400 miles. The person delivering the letter would need to be extraordinary.

  • courageous
  • strong
  • unimpeachable character
  • capable
  • smart
  • completely trustworthy
  • willing

The person Paul selected to deliver his mail was a Christian, which makes sense. Also, the person was a deacon, a special servant of the church known for being dedicated to the Christian community and committed to advancing the gospel.

Who did Paul choose? Who had earned Pauls’ respect to compete such a long and dangerous journey? Who did he ask to deliver his letter to Rome?

It was a woman named Phoebe.

TO CLOSE

I love the book of Romans. It’s easily one of two or three of the most important writings in the New Testament.

The mail at my house is nothing to get excited about. Imagine going to the mail box and finding a letter from Paul.

Thank you Phoebe.

A CASE For Camp

This is the week. It’s the last BIG event of our summer. We call it CASE Camp which stands for Creative Art and Science Exploration. Doesn’t that sound like fun! It’s for elementary kids and we have 192 of them coming.

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Not one of CASE camp’s  wonderful volunteers, but close, really very close. Actually, he’s the A/V guy for the week.

THIS IS COOL

The cool thing is that 71 of the kids are from our church and 121 are from the neighborhood. It’s the largest children’s event of our year that’s purposed at filling kids hearts with Jesus.

This week they will learn about:

  • God the Great I Am
  • Creation and creativity
  • Art and artistry
  • Jesus the Real Redeemer

It’s also four days of hanging with friends, making new friends, and having a sense of community. It’s four days of learning by exploration. It’s a massive camp to produce, the prep for materials is incredible and it daily requires 80 volunteers of adults and teens.

ME?

They didn’t have CASE camp when I was a kid. The closest I got to science was shaking a can of soda and spraying my friends. The closest I got to art involved a spray can of paint and a wall. Sorry mom, it’s true. 

THE GOAL?

Well, the goal is to instill belief, to deepen faith and to help them understand more about God and his Son. It’s a great thing and it starts this morning. 

TO CLOSE

I don’t know much about science and even less about art, so I’m not crucial to the success of the event. I’ll just write about it.

Thanks to our Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry for their constant effort to serve God by serving those to whom the Kingdom is given.

HAVE FUN!

 

Moments On High Places

WHAT HAPPENED?

My heart is full this morning, or at least at near capacity. Last night, Wednesday night, we had an evening or praise. It was glorious.

To start, one of our worship leaders, with an eight person praise team, led us in songs of great meaning and of great praise. We also had two people share their testimony about the power and blessing of the camp last week.

The celebration was all the better because many  who attended the camp were there last night. Their worship at camp was incredible because the campers were challenged to worship without boundaries, to let the walls come down and their self-consciousness to melt. They did and were able to give wholehearted praise to God.

Our worship center was lit up with energy and excitement, the people attending were of all ages and backgrounds but for an hour last night, we were one voice.

AND THEN?

Afterwards, one of our Dad’s baptized his teenage son. Probably 200 people stayed to share in the moment. While standing in the water together, he shared his son’s faith journey and then shared a little of his own. They hugged each other and the tears were flowing. Finally, after a few minutes, he immersed him into Jesus. It was one of the most moving moments I’ve ever witnessed.

I know, mountain top experiences aren’t meant for every day, that’s why they’re called  mountain top, and most of us don’t live on mountains. But I wouldn’t mind having some of that as often as I can get it.

As far as I know, today will be a normal day. I’ll be in my office at the church. I’ll put the finishing touches on the lesson for Sunday. I’ll check with staff members and review whatever needs reviewing. It’ll be a regular day, but my soul will be on fire and my heart filled with joy.

THANKS

Thank you God for your Spirit. Thank you Holy Spirit for filling us. Thanks you Jesus for sending the Spirit so we could experience moments like last night.

Shalom

 

Listen To Our Hearts

A HARD DAY

Someone said there would be days like this. Someone was right. We all know tough times and discouraging days, certainly I do. But not like today.

Today, there is a funeral at my church. Actually, it’s a Celebration of Life Service. That’s what we call them now, a Celebration of Life. Mostly it means there won’t be a long-winded preacher preaching something nobody wants to hear.

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We hurt and grieve and wonder if God is listening.

The celebration allows for laughter, joyful memories and sweet stories. It’s not to prevent tears but to embrace other emotions and expressions. It’s surrounding those we care about to help them celebrate the life of the one they’ve lost. Sometimes, the one they’ve lost is a child.

Today’s service is for a little boy who died a few days ago.

LEVELS?

There are levels of grief. One is when a distant relative, whom we barely know, passes away in their sleep at the age of 89. Another level is when a young child tragically succumbs to illness or is struck down by a senseless accident.

All the deaths of children are tragic and senseless.

Arguably, the only grief that is harder than losing a child is losing more than one. Today, many will gather to support a family who has lost four children in just a few years. It is beyond words, beyond explanation, beyond answers.

The things we say at times like this can seem trite or useless. Sometimes, all we can do is hug the grieving, weep with the hurting, and hope they can hear our hearts because our words have stuck in our throats.

YET, WE PRAY

We pray to Him who seemingly turned a deaf ear to the calling, ignored the praying and abandoned the grieving. We pray because prayer is what we have, along with our faith.

Gut-wrenching grief can leave the shattered with a deep-seated anger at God. We know, we try to understand, but we lack the words, the theology, or the wisdom to comfort them. And yet, we pray. We pray, for our faith reminds us that the God who sacrificed his own son knows something of loss.

TO CLOSE

So, please pray today. If words fail then trust the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf. Please forward this to others and allow this day to be a day that God our Father listens to  our hearts.

Thank you.

The Past Pushes Us Forward!

HOLY LAND TOUR-FINAL DAYI’ve not blogged as much as intended. Some of the lapse was the internet and some was me.

There’s been many powerful and overwhelming days, as if God himself invited me to meet with him in the desert so he could speak with me. He did and he has.

FINAL DAY

On this last day we will visit Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, then spend some in the Garden Tomb, have an early dinner and then go to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. It’s a light schedule but an emotionally heavy day. Glad to be going home. Sad to be leaving.

UNDERSTANDING

Visiting the Holy Land, and this is my 4th visit, you begin realizing that there is nothing divinely powerful in the ruins, the sites, or the ancient synagogues.

The power isn’t found in ancient stones of the past but in Jesus the living stone. The blessing we seek isn’t in the stories of great men and great events, but in the the sacred scriptures.The resurrected Messiah has power, the places and people of past events have none. But, they remind us of who does, and vividly.

I’ve walked where Jesus walked. Iv’e stood where Abraham lived. I’ve stepped through the ruins of King David’s Palace. I’ve sat in the temple courtyards where Jesus taught his disciples and healed and people.

It’s inspirational, and life affecting, to see it and imagine it happening. But there is not a single once of divine power in the ancient ruins, the Jordan River, or the Temple Mount. It’s all in Jesus and it all points to him.

TO CLOSE

Visiting the Holy Land is about understanding how the Kingdom of God, in one form or another, has always been here. It’s embracing that God has been with his people since time began, that he is with us still, and will continue to carry out his purpose for all time to come.

God isn’t finished with Israel, he is still here, still working, as he is everywhere and with everyone. 

Shalom

Taking The Plunge

HOLY LAND TOUR
If you feel that you’ve missed some blogs you aren’t wrong. I’ve had internet issues and my blog has been wonky to say the least. However, here is something we learned a few days ago. 

MIKVEH 

Some of you know this word and some of you have heard me speak about it in lessons. It’s a Hebrew word meaning to cleanse, or cleanse for ritual purification.  

When visiting the ruins of ancient villages it becomes obvious that the Mikveh was an essential part of the home, an essential element of Jewish life. The Mikveh was a square or rectangle shaped hole in the ground that was lined with rock or stone and filled with enough water for an adult to submerge. Kind of like a bathtub, but not. .

The Mikveh was used for ceremonial cleansing and not for washing off dirt. In fact, next to the Mikveh was a clay jar with water used to clean the outer person so then the ceremonial waters could clean the inner person.

Cleansing of this nature was done for many reasons. It was used when you were defiled by touching a dead body or animal or when coming into contact with anything that defiled you. It was used at the Temple in Jerusalem, in fact there were hundreds of them, for no one could enter the Temple unless they were first ceremonially clean.

BAPTISM 

For Christians, the Mikveh is known by a different word: baptism. For us, full immersion in water is done in the name of Jesus, and signifies experiencing the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It’s where the old is crucified and buried and the new is raised to live life in Jesus.

The word “baptism” doesn’t mean ceremonial cleansing, it can’t be defined that way. Baptism comes from a Greek word that was made into an English word and it means immersion. But translators didn’t want to translate it as immersion for fear of offending many denominational churches who sprinkle or use some other form of “baptism.”

We wouldn’t call John the Baptist, “ John the Sprinkler.” We wouldn’t teach that Jesus went to the Jordan River to be sprinkled by John.

TO CLOSE

Homes in first century Palestine were about community, it was where parents, grandparents, and grandchildren could dwell together in separate rooms but rooms and space that was all connected. But one of the most important things they all shared was the Mikveh. The ability to immerse themselves in the blessing of ceremonial cleansing, to be pure before YHWH. What a beautiful gift to families. What a lovely thought for us all. Thanks you God.

Shalom

The New Way of Old

HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY FIVE
Yesterday was day five of our Holy Land tour. We spent our time viewing the excavations and ruins of some of Galilee’s villages and synagogues. It’s interesting how people who lived 2000 years ago aligns with how people are trying to live today. 

CAPERNAUM

It was a fishing village on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and was home to several of the apostles. It was well know for it’s synagogue which was built with money donated from a Centurion.

Some Facts 

– Jesus left Nazareth and moved to Capernaum to launch his ministry.

– He lived with Simon Peter and his family for about three years.

– Some of his greatest miracles were performed there.

– He taught, healed, and lived among the people, he was one of them.

CORAZIN

Just a couple of miles from Capernaum was the village of Chorazin and its synagogue. Perhaps not as large a village or as grand a synagogue, but a village that offered a beautiful setting in the hills above the Sea of Galilee.

Some Facts

– Jesus performed many miracles in Chorazin.

– He became displeased with the community for their lack of faith.

– It was obvious that the village was constructed around family.

An interesting observation about the two villages, and others like them, was that their culture totally revolved around family.

– Every family had to make a living

– Few could afford to hire outside help

– They needed a growing work force

– That happened by having many children who married and had many children

– The sons brought their brides home to live with the family

– The daughters married and moved with their husbands to their families

– It was an agrarian culture and deeply dependent on family

An interesting aspect to that culture was how they all lived together. Today, because of prosperity and a different culture, our families separate and live elsewhere. Our children grow up and get married and move away, either near or far, but away from the parents.

Not so in first century Israel. They built their families with a “family dwelling” model. Mom and Dad had a house and as children came they added rooms. As children became men and married, they moved into added rooms that expanded the house with more walls and living space. Over time, the “house” became a community of family, perhaps 50-60 people living together. With such numbers were additional field hands, fishermen, and the workers they needed to expand their fields, reap a greater harvest and so forth.

TO CLOSE

In John 14 Jesus told his apostles that he was leaving to prepare a house, or mansion as some versions put it, and that he would return to take them to be with him.

We think of heaven as mansions on streets of gold. But what Jesus was saying was that he was leaving to go and build a room on his Father’s house for each of them. A place for everyone, a home for everyone to be together, to be a family.

Think about it. It’s the new way of old. We look forward to an eternal dwelling based on how people lived 2000 years ago!

Shalom

A Couple of Cool Mountains

HOLY LAND TOUR-DAY THREE

Yesterday was a great day. Our group is drawing closer to each other and bonding over the shared experience of the Holy Land. It’s been wonderful to see it happen. 

Our second day took us to two places:

1. The Desert of Zin

2. The Fortress of Masada

At first glance the two have little in common, but not true, they share many similarities.

They both are:

1. In desert locations

2. Exist in mountain terrain

3. Centered around famous people

4. Significant to the biblical narrative

THE DESERT OF ZIN

There is in Zin a massive and mysterious canyon where Moses provided water for the people and their live stock. Provide water he did but the way he did it changed his life.

 Moses had been distraught over the people. Their constant grumbling and desire to return to Egypt were demonstrations of a faithless and impatient spirit that was all to quick to give up. On that day, while they demonstrated their lack of trust Moses demonstrated his growing anger. He took the Staff of God and, in full view of the people, hit the rock twice which greatly displeased YWEH. Moses failed to demonstrate God as holy and as a consequence was forbidden from entering the Promise Land. It was a tough day for Moses.

THE FORTRESS OF MASADA

This incredible mountain escape was commissioned by Herod the Great who was a prolific builder of great structures and palace retreats. He was not the rightful heir of King David and he wasn’t even Jewish but of mixed ancestry. He used his political skill to curry favor from Rome and got himself declared King of Judea.

His great fear was that the Jews would revolt or that Rome would revoke his power. So, in case of the worst case scenario Herod would need somewhere to go. Masada was built just for that purpose. It was in the middle of nowhere, on top of mountain, out in the desert of Judea. It’s a magnificent and impressive place.

A FEW THOUGHTS

1. Moses was a great servant of God, Herod never served God.

2. Moses delivered his people from Egypt, Herod enslaved his people.

3. Moses wanted only to help them, Herod wanted only to rule them.

4. Moses worshipped the Lord God, while Herod worshipped himself.

TO CLOSE

Two mountain experiences, two impressive things to see. The Canyon of Zin was of God’s design with immense beauty and majesty. The fortress of Masada was of man’s design and revealed the empty heart of a wicked man.

Let us not be overly impressed by what men can achieve but amazed at what God has done and still does. What are we building? Our we seeking to glorify ourselves or are we seeking to glorify the Lord God? The Canyon Rock or the Fortress of Masada? Which are you pursing?

Shalom From the Holy Land